Most projects will take a Train the Trainer (TTT) approach to save time and money. TTT can be an invaluable tool for projects and increase adoption rates for new processes and technologies. Handled poorly however, TTT can do more harm than good. If your TTT approach consists only of identifying SMEs, handing them a presentation and off to teach the class they go- you are setting your training up to fail.

TTT works when the SME has been trained previously as a facilitator. Teaching effectively is much more than knowing the subject matter, standing in front of colleagues and speaking. Where TTT approaches fail is that they don't teach the basics of good facilitating.

SMES often know the material too well. They can struggle to break it down to its most basic elements. For example, would you hire someone with a PhD in auto mechanics to teach your 15 year old how to drive? Most likely you wouldn't. And you shouldn't: you wouldn't want the PhD focusing on the dynamics of the engine instead of the rules of the road. Pontificating on the periphery of a subject is less valuable to an audience than instructing them first on the ABCs of what they need to do.

To ensure your TTT approach is successful, include the following in your approach:

  1. Use multiple criteria when identifying SMEs to conduct training including: subject matter knowledge, advocate for the change, previous training/facilitating experience, solid presenting/speaking skills, and conversion from change resistor. The last criterion will better enable the facilitator to address users' concerns and build credibility with the audience.
  2. Educate trainers on good facilitating practices such as: conducting exercises during the class, being comfortable with silence (i.e. "pregnant pauses"), showing rather than telling,
  3. Conduct Dry Runs where the facilitator practices in a "safe" environment, the audience can provide timely feedback, and the facilitator can get comfortable with the material and the class approach.

Incorporating these practices into your TTT approach will enable a more thoughtful, targeted, and successful training experience for your users. Poorly facilitated training is not really training at all- it's just a smart person talking.